A little boy stands at his window in Scooby Doo pajamas and wet hair. He touches his fingers to the glass and feels the Texas summer hot against his skin. Downstairs his parents yell at each other, and tomorrow his father will move out, but in his hand tonight he clutches his first tooth, small and white and sharp, and he waits.
Tonight the tooth fairy will die, under a spray of chemicals sent to end the West Nile Virus.
If he had only lost his tooth last spring, had let his father yank it out when he offered, but he didn’t and this summer in Texas the West Nile Virus spread like a dust storm and a little girl died in a hospital bed and the city said that enough was enough, something had to be done. Protestors said there were other ways, but the city asked how many people had to die. They filled the sky with shining lights and helicopters that rained chemicals down over the streets, and they told the children to stay inside and shut their windows until the aerial spray was over. They must have forgotten about the fairies.
The little boy knows the tooth fairy will try to come. She will ignore the city warnings and will fly through the aerial spray to reach him, like she has flown every night to reach children. And she will die. The little boy knows she will die. He sees her struggling against the chemicals that cling like lead to her wings and fill her lungs. He sees her coughing, sputtering. A plate shatters downstairs. The little boy’s fist tightens around the tooth and a drop of blood appears on his palm.
Tomorrow he will search the woods for the tooth fairy. His mother will dress him in long sleeves and gloves to keep the chemicals from his skin. She will look relieved to send him out to play and will tell him to stay as long as he wants. She will say she is sure the tooth fairy is not dead, only distracted, but the little boy will know better. The woods will be silent, and the little boy will look under rocks and logs for trails of golden fairy dust, but he will find nothing but dead frogs and insects. He will build a fairy house in case the tooth fairy really is alive and needs a place to rest. He will rinse the house in the creek to wash the poison from it and will carpet it with pine needles and build a bed of twigs. He will hang curtains made of leaves from the windows to shelter the house in case the helicopters come again with their aerial spray.
Tonight, though, the little boy waits in his bedroom. He whispers to the tooth fairy not to come, but he knows he is too late. He stands at his window and listens.
Listens to the yelling.
Listens to the poison rain.
Listens to the fairy wings that beat faintly, and fall.
Courtney Craggett is a doctoral candidate in creative writing and Chicano/a literature at the University of North Texas, where she teaches English and has served as the Assistant Fiction Editor for the American Literary Review. Her fiction appears in Mid-American Review, Washington Square Review, and Word Riot. Her reviews appear monthly in American Microreviews and Interviews.